Whether it’s a new bridge or a new hospital, Prince Albert will need significant financial support from the provincial government to make these projects a reality.
But, the ruling Saskatchewan Party doesn’t have the winning plan to free up the required funding, the province’s interim NDP leader John Nilson said during a conference call on Tuesday.
“The people (who) are hounding on new provincial money for infrastructure in the municipalities can’t get much hope out of last week’s document,” he said, referencing Premier Brad Wall’s 64-page Saskatchewan Plan for Growth: Vision 2020 and Beyond.
Unveiled last week, the document and subsequent explanations by Wall include some dangerous proposals when it comes to funding infrastructure needs, Nilson claimed, including the desire for public-private partnerships, known as P3s.
“What he’s doing here is returning to the ideology of 2003 campaign, where they’re going to be privatizing things that are important — infrastructure for Saskatchewan people,” Nilson said.
“It pushes the payment of infrastructure to the future, so … we’ll be paying more, because we’ll be paying for the private partners in these things, and we’ll be paying for it over a longer period of time.”
Considering the second North Saskatchewan River crossing city council candidates have been campaigning for, Nilson said that a P3 partnership would likely result in a revenue-generating mechanism like a toll bridge.
“Which would then generate revenue, which would go to a company where they have to pay shareholders for that bridge,” he noted.
The NDP “common-sense Saskatchewan perspective” dictates that public-private partnerships aren’t the way to go, he said.
“We would just go ahead, and if we had to, borrow the money for a structure that has an immeasurable benefit to the economy of Prince Albert, but not just Prince Albert, all of northern Saskatchewan,” he said.
“The kinds of disruption that have happened to business in northern Saskatchewan and Prince Albert can’t be justified at all.”
Wall’s Saskatchewan Plan for Growth: Vision 2020 and Beyond includes many good concepts that all Saskatchewan residents can relate to, Nilson said, but is lacking in the detail to make them a reality.
“Smart growth, from a New Democratic Party perspective, is growth that includes the middle class and makes sure that everyone benefits from the economy and the good things that are happening in Saskatchewan,” he said.
The people (who) are hounding on new provincial money for infrastructure in the municipalities can’t get much hope out of last week’s document. - Saskatchewan NDP interim leader John Nilson
With the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan returning to Regina this month, the Saskatchewan NDP plans on addressing a number of items, including Wall’s recently announced plan to reduce incorporated business tax rates.
Currently, Saskatchewan’s incorporated business tax rate is 12 per cent, a number Wall hopes to lower to 10 per cent in order to stay competitive with Albert and B.C., which both boast the 10 per cent rate.
“Most of the jobs in Saskatchewan are related to small business,” Nilson said.
“We don’t understand why the Sask. Party government would choose to reduce corporate tax to 10 per cent from 12 per cent when that benefits shareholders, most of whom are not in Saskatchewan.”
The Saskatchewan NDP would like to see small business taxes lowered to zero per cent, instead, he added.
The following items will also be addressed by the NDP in the coming weeks, as outlined by Nilson:
• Aboriginal employment — “The government got rid of the aboriginal employment program that was something the New Democrats had introduced, and that was almost two years ago since they’ve done that and they haven’t replaced it.”
• Labour legislation — “It’ll be right at the top of the agenda for what we’re watching, but we’re wanting to see whether the government actually is listening to the people of Saskatchewan.”
• Seniors’ Bill of Rights — “It’s another one that we’ll probably bring back if there’s no plan from the government in this area … (The Saskatchewan Party doesn’t) appear to have seniors as one of the groups that they’re trying to make sure are protected.”
• Jimmy’s Law — “If they don’t bring that forward in their legislative agenda, we will be bringing that forward again as a private member’s bill.”
• Housing concerns — “We know in every community of the province, people come and get jobs but they can’t find a place to live.”
• The public’s concerns — “Send us information about things that are causing difficulty.”